Saturday, 24 December 2011

A very Marmalade Cottage Christmas

For the last couple of weeks, the reinventors have been planning the inaugural Marmalade Cottage Christmas.  Last night it came together.  With 12 adult and two infant guests, there was probably enough food for 20 and presents for everyone.

This isn't exactly a hand-made gift, but near enough.  The practical reinventor found a block of organic glycerine soap and melted it down, adding kaffir lime leaves to the bottom layer and lemon rind to the top.  She also made some old-fashioned Bay Rum aftershave (mostly vodka, so if it doesn't work as aftershave, she supposes the recipient could drink it...) Others unwrapped jam or relish and a selection of vintage gifts found at op shops and garage sales.

Brown paper packages tied up with string under the tree. 

And the very festive dinner in the back garden.  Dips and nibblies to begin, punch and wine, turkey, glazed ham, falafel, coleslaw, potato salad, baked potatoes, braised lentils, beans with beetroot and fetta, then gluten-free orange cake, fruit and pavlova with the traditional Australian topping of crushed peppermint crisp.

There are several weeks' worth of leftovers in the fridge!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Surviving remnant

The front garden of Marmalade Cottage wasn't ever (as far as the reinventors can tell) much to look at.  When we moved in, it was brown and sad.

Just hanging on were three hydrangeas.  The plan was to plant out the front garden with masses of flowers - all white in contrast with the red brick of the cottage.  Hydrangeas are rarely white.

The practical reinventor cut the hydrangeas back savagely and applied glyphosate.

This is what happened:

Looks like they're staying.

A long time coming

The reinventors inherited rather a lot of Marmalade Cottage's former owner's possessions.  Some of it was quite nice, the rest was this:

Then it was this:

More correctly, it was about a third more than this.  The enterprising and desperate of the area have removed quite a lot of saleable scrap metal.

We're just pleased our stables now look like this:

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tempus fugit. Or something.

The reinventors ran away for the weekend to celebrate the practical one's birthday.  As well as drinking fabulously obscure wines in achingly cool bars - one of which was the brainchild of a Masterchef competitor - they found a treasure for Marmalade Cottage.

It has always been the plan to have small collections about the house - there are a number of cookbooks dating back to the era the house was built.

And now there's this:

Which is the beginning of what is going to be a completely nutty display.

There is the Dali clock.

There's the movie bomb clock.

The 1930s kitchen clock which doesn't get wound up on account of its absurdly loud tick.
They've been joined by the ABC test pattern clock.
And for luck, a portrait of Audrey Hepburn on a record.
That's a nail sticking out of her mouth.  As well as the cigarette holder.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The ladies have arrived!

You might remember back here, we started to build a chook house.

Over the last couple of months, it's taken shape, based on the building materials we found, scrounged and nicked from building site rubbish piles.

With the addition of some hay, it was finally ready. 

We proud to introduce, on the left Nancy Bird Walton (a Chinese Silky) in the centre Alice Anderson and on the top right, Marion Bell, who are Australorps.

Bless them, they've given us these:

As well as giving us eggs, they'll eat most of the scraps we produce, and their poo will feed the soil.  It's very good, organic practice and everybody gets what they need from the system.

What happens in spring

Plants get all excited and grow!

Sweet corn.

A second plot of broad beans, with a few marigolds peeping out from the bean foliage.

The fig tree that's been in a pot for four years.  Immediately after it went into the ground it looked awfully sick and dropped the leaves and fruit it had.  Now look!  There are least seven little figs growing there. 

This is the second plot of butter beans.  There have been enough to give great handfuls to the neighbours and they're still coming.

Potatoes.  Add to that beetroot, peas, snow peas, tomatoes, lettuces, onions, spring onions and silverbeet.  Yet to go in are capsicums, rosella, more lettuces, green beans, pumpkins, cucumbers and whatever else we can fit in.  We are rather running out of space.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


After a morning helping clear out spent crops and plant new ones at the Urban Orchard in Perth's Cultural Centre with Josh Byrne (of ABC Gardening Australia fame), the reinventors caught the train home full of enthusiasm for the back garden.

The first plot of broad beans has given its all, and left some lovely nitrogen in the soil.  They've come out and been replaced by some beetroot seedlings left over from the morning's activities, and more basil.

The butter beans have produced beyond our expectations, and are ripening faster than we can eat them.

This is what we picked today:

Half of the butter beans went into handmade drawstring bags for two of the reinventors' favourite neighbours.

Into the largest vegetable bed went: kipfler potatoes, corn, onions, lettuce, carrots and more butter beans.  We now almost don't need to buy vegetables.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

On the approach of summer

One of the first quotes we decided not to go with was for insulation.  It was less than a third of the quote to buy some more-than-needed-for-the-job insulation from someone off Gumtree, then just a matter of getting the batts up the ladder and into the ceiling.

We bought the insulation before the house settled, and lovely friends P and D stored it for us.  A bit of it went in several weeks after we moved in.  Then it got put off and put off.

Last weekend we set this up:

Then the practical reinventor, who does not have a head for heights, and does not do ladders, folded each batt in half and passed it to the creative reinventor in the ceiling.  That's five packs of 16 batts.

We're very glad it's done.

We hate painting, but...

You have to admit it makes the biggest difference.  And you're always glad when it's over.
The mudroom (we believe) was last painted in the 1940s.  It spent something like 50 years as the kitchen, and it doesn't appear the walls were ever washed.  Don't think about that too much.  The last owner was a smoker.  Don't think about that either.

Here's the creative reinventor making an enormous difference.

Thus inspired, he kept going.
Getting rid of the hospital green has always been a dream.

We've had a mistint tin of this lovely, buttery, sunshiney yellow for a while.
When the plumbers put in our inside toilet they had to dig up some of our (admittedly dodgy) concrete.  Mostly that bit of the back verandah has been home to firewood or packs of insulation.

Once we'd cleaned out all the rubbish and rubble, and painted the wall behind it, we put some plants in.
So now we have a little garden right at the back door.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The left hand side

Right at the beginning, the left hand side of the back garden looked like this:

Then winter hit, and with all that lovely rain, we got this:

As of last weekend, we have this:

We are looking at it from the other side, but that was where the sun was. It includes one of these:

Which is just your standard grafted purple Nellie Kelly passionfruit, but it'll make a magnificent, edible screen.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Daily bread

The reinventors love a good garage sale, and last weekend we found a great bargain.  In our quest for self-sufficiency, and taking into account various motorcycle injuries, neither of us is capable of properly kneading bread, so we've been looking for a bread maker for a while.

We thought $20 was a fair price, and so far it's given us two great loaves.

On the left is pumpkin bread, and the right is standard wholegrain.   Even buying premium pre-mixed bread flour, each loaf costs us less than $3, where buying a decent loaf of bread at the farmers markets on Sunday morning costs us $7.

We'll be having fun experimenting.

Our new addition

Nearly two years ago, our beloved Blue Heeler cross Kate died.  We were devastated, and we still feel the loss.  But we always intended to get another dog.  We knew there would be a dog who needed us, and we found her.

This is Jodie.  She's a Kelpie X Red Heeler.   We think she's been an only dog for a while, then her owner married a guy with two much bigger dogs, and inevitably she was the one chosen to go.  She has lovely manners, but hasn't been taught important dog skills, like riding in the back of the ute.  She also thinks it's OK to jump onto the furniture, and we disagree.

But she's learning, and she's a sweetheart.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Not even close

The reinventors had been quite looking forward to today - the day the security screens were fitted. 

We got the quote five weeks ago, T of Security Company came to Marmalade Cottage and measured up the odd shaped doors and windows very carefully, then promised they'd be fitted in two weeks.

That deadline came and went.  There were a number of phone calls and today was settled upon.

The agreed time came and trickled by.

Three-quarters of an hour later, the installer drove straight past Marmalade Cottage.  Two bemused phone calls later he parked out front.

Better late than, well, you know.

The front security door went on with only a little swearing and bodgying on the part of S, the installer.

But not the back door or either of the window screens.

It transpires the T's measuring has the been the subject of rather a lot of swearing of late.  But this was a new low.

S loaded our back door and two window screens back onto his truck, to be taken back to the factory to be recut and he assures us they will be secured next week.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Treading somewhat carefully

The loungeroom floor has always been a bit... unsteady.  To be fair, the house is just shy of its hundredth birthday and it's been badly neglected, so some settling and slipping is to be expected.  We bought Marmalade Cottage for land value only - there was no receipt for restumping.
Lovely friend G has access to all sorts of demolition material and, perhaps more importantly, some very impressive skills in carpentry and general make do and mend.
Bless him, he scrounged us some jarrah from an old fence, machined it into floorboards and arrived bearing tools and goodwill on Sunday morning.
Pretty soon there was some destruction.

And more destruction.

And it got worse.

The cat was fascinated.

And then it got scary.  That's dry rot.  There's only one way to deal with it - cut out the affected bit and replace it.

The creative reinventor had not expected to be digging out his loungeroom floor.

There was one trip to the Green and Orange Temple to Lost Weekends to buy some new timber to, erm, hold up our house.   There are also some pretty interesting chocked up bits using bits of brick and concrete and more timber.  But this approach very effectively stopped the house swinging and swaying. And then the boys made it look better again.

So we had lunch to celebrate, along with L, who came over to see Marmalade Cottage for the first time, not expecting to see it in bits.  But, she took it in her (very elegant) stride.

And then the job was done - and there was rejoicing.

Now the furniture is back in place, but the reinventors are still smiling at the new solidity underfoot.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Going back to basics

One of the things we were so impressed about with Marmalade Cottage was its Metters No 2 wood stove still in its original spot in the kitchen.

Knowing the former owners refused to spend any money on the house, we were fairly sure the chimney had never been swept, but with everything else that needed - and still needs - doing, it got put on a list.

Enough jobs have been crossed off the list that the chimneysweep (called George, but sadly not wearing a top hat) came on Saturday.  An hour and a large pile of soot later, we were good to go.

George have us some invaluable advice on how to manage the fire in the stove, then left us to it.

Here's the creative reinvetor carefully making newspaper tinder knots.

And here it is in action!   The chimney drew beautifully and the stove warmed the kitchen delightfully.  The enamel is in exceptionally good condition, needing only a wipe down.  We'll get a thermometer for the oven before we try baking anything, but boiling and frying on the hotplates should be fine.

Baked, boiled, fried or chips

Way back in the beginning, the creative reinventor fell in love with the practical one when she took him out to her garden to dig potatoes for dinner.  They'd known each other about three weeks.  With Marmalade Cottage, there was never any question there'd be potatoes as a key part of the kitchen garden.

They went in today.

We decided to plant ordinary white potatoes, usually called chats or gourmet potatoes and some pretty royal blues.  The first layer of organic matter on the soil is coffee chaff, a waste product of coffee roasting, to which the creative reinventor has unlimited access.

With a layer of compost, we'll leave the potatoes to wake up and sprout leaves.  Once they've established themselves, we'll add another layer of compost and some straw, forcing the plants to grow up through that layer, and hopefully leaving behind another layer of new potatoes.  We'll keep layering three or four times before we harvest.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

There will be chooks!

This is what Enid Blyton would call the bottom of the garden.  Only, in this garden we're fairly certain there are no fairies.  You can see the creative reinventor starting to build a poultry palace.

It'll be a little while yet.